The world’s largest retailer is out to extend its reach as a business products merchant, relying on its expertise in ecommerce and its dominant store and distribution network to bring a high level of service to small and midsized businesses and not-for-profit organizations.
The initiative, called Walmart Business, is designed to offer a one-stop shop for office supplies, furniture, food and electronics, Ashley Hubka, senior vice president and general manager of the program, said in an interview with Bloomberg. Walmart is also pitching a business membership plan, Walmart Business+, that for a $98 annual fee offers extra savings like free shipping on all orders.
Walmart says the website is tailored to the needs of companies and nonprofits, and will provide more convenience for busy purchasing managers. That will position the company to attract new corporate shoppers and, in the case of existing customers, “earn a greater share of their wallet,” Hubka said.
Taking on Staples, Costco and Amazon
Walmart is betting that the venture will help it encroach on rivals such as Staples Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp. and Amazon.com Inc., which stepped up efforts to woo smaller companies during the coronavirus pandemic. Wall Street analysts predict Walmart will be a slow-growing behemoth over the long term, and finding new sources of demand is a key challenge.
The retailer started Walmart Business – at business.walmart.com – in September 2022, with little fanfare, Hubka said. Now, having honed the product assortment based on user feedback, it’s looking to ramp up growth.
The website includes an assortment of more than 100,000 items for purchasers looking to buy equipment, restock supplies and feed employees. As many as five users can share a single account.
Walmart has been working “for months” with SMBs and nonprofit organizations to “build solutions just for them, with tools tailored to help teams run smoother, have the right items on hand, and easily find products to meet their needs,” Hubka says in announcement on Walmart.com. She adds that Walmart Business will address the needs of such organizations to save money and spend less time on business purchases while also stocking their supplies more efficiently to support their business operations and grow their sales.
Building on Walmart’s store and DC networks
“Our focus is to remove complexity in purchasing, lower costs and give our customers more opportunities to serve their customers and communities,” Hubka says. She adds that Walmart Business was “built to leverage the very best of Walmart.” That includes the proximity of its store and distribution network to within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population, and its ecommerce, fulfillment and delivery technologies.
Near the top of the Walmart Business home page, the site shows a visitor’s ZIP code and a link to their nearest Walmart and poses the question: “How do you want your items?” Below the question are three linked icons for “shipping,” “pickup” and “delivery.” When the visitor clicks a link to their nearest Walmart store, a drop-down menu also shows the next-nearest Walmart and the nearest Walmart Supercenter.
The site also displays several images representing “Top Categories” of Office Furniture, Office Supplies, Food & Fresh, Technology (including laptops and phones), Paper Products & Dispensers, Pet Care, Cleaning, and Personal Care. Additional product categories include Restroom, Classroom, Facility (including cooling and heating, safety and electrical products), and Professional (including automotive, beauty, health, hospitality and sports & fitness.)
Sam’s Club also wants more B2B customers
The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company is offering Walmart Business+ as corporate counterpart to its Walmart+ membership program for individual consumers. The business version offers free shipping, plus 2% rewards on orders of at least $250 and savings of as much as 5% on certain items in subscription orders.
Another membership-based company vying for business customers is Sam’s Club, Walmart’s own warehouse-store operation. Hubka said there’s enough demand for Walmart itself to win more new business-to-business sales without cannibalizing revenue at its corporate cousin.
“This will be additive to Walmart as a whole,” she said. “We believe there’s a really large market.”
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